The global ocean and the atmosphere that surrounds the Earth are inextricably linked. Changes in ocean circulation patterns or ocean temperature can have profound effects on the weather, just as changes in the atmosphere can affect the ocean. These interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere can have far-reaching effects on marine life and global climate and change the delicate balance of the Earth’s ecosystem.
On Thursday, June 15, at 7:00 p.m., at the University of Delaware’s College of Marine Studies in Lewes, David Hutchins, professor of oceanography, will discuss these interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere in “A Sea Change Coming: The Oceans in a Time of Global Change.” The lecture is part of the Ocean Currents Lecture Series, which is held on the third Thursday of the month, from April through September, at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus.
In his talk, Hutchins will explain the greenhouse effect, in which gases such as water vapor and carbon dioxide trap energy from the sun. Without these gases, heat would escape back into space and the Earth’s average temperature would be much colder. In fact, it is because of these gases that the Earth is warm enough to support life.
However, human activities have increased the levels of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere. These gases then dissolve in the ocean in increasing amounts. As more carbon dioxide dissolves in the water, the ocean becomes more acidic. According to Hutchins, ocean acidification is a serious issue and one that has just recently emerged in the scientific community.
“The chemistry and biology of the ocean has adapted to a certain level of acidity, or pH, and it has been that way for hundreds of millions of years,” says Hutchins. “We’re now changing that, and so the ocean is getting more and more acidic. In the extreme case, it can stop the growth of crucial marine organisms like corals and some plankton.”
These conditions may be ideal to prevent algae, which causes that unsightly green color, as well as other unwanted organisms from growing in a swimming pool. However, it’s a different story entirely for the ocean. Global changes like rising carbon dioxide and temperature are changing the base of the ocean’s food chain, which has implications not only for the ocean ecosystem, but also for critical marine resources like fisheries.
In addition to ocean acidification, Hutchins will discuss how interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere can affect changes in sea level, the size of the polar ice caps, and global climate. The ocean not only is affected by these changes, but also can impact the rate at which these changes occur.
A member of the college’s faculty since 1996, Hutchins conducts research on projects involving marine phytoplankton growth, impacts of global change on ocean biology and biogeochemistry, as well as a more applied focus on harmful algal blooms in the Delmarva region. He has advised 11 graduate students.
Hutchins has published over 65 peer-reviewed articles and is associate editor of the Journal of Geo-physical Research — Oceans. In addition, he is an invited member of numerous committees that address issues of marine biogeochemistry. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree’s in biology from Portland State University in Oregon in 1987 and 1989, respectively, and his doctorate in biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1994.
The lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Room 104, Cannon Laboratory, at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes. The hour-long talk will be followed by light refreshments.
While the lecture is free and open to the public, seating is limited and reservations are required. To reserve your seat, please contact the college at (302) 645-4279.